Peter King’s NFL Mock Draft

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1. Arizona: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

We live in a society (I sound like Costanza) that screams “Fake News!” when something seems just too obvious. We need to face reality, folks. When Cards GM Steve Keim walks into a meeting with club president Michael Bidwill today in Tempe to discuss the fate of the first overall pick, they could do a couple of things. They could decide to take Murray, the choice of head coach Kliff Kinsgbury. They could decide to take the best edge-rusher (Nick Bosa)—who I hear is the choice of many in the building—or the best player (Quinnen Williams) in the draft. I’ll be surprised, as will America, if the choice is anyone but Murray, particularly because the Raiders, at four, are not likely to want to trade up for what it would cost. I do want to give you one cautionary tale on Kyler Murray, assuming he is picked here. Over the last seven years of football—three years of varsity high school football, a short one-year stint at Texans A&M, sitting a year at Oklahoma after transferring, mostly sitting in 2017 behind Baker Mayfield, and starting last year at Oklahoma—Murray has started 60 games. He is 57-3. Who knows if he starts right away in the NFL? But in the NFL, he could lose more starts in a month than he lost in the previous seven years. It’ll be interesting to see how Murray adjusts to adversity. Not sure he’s ever had much of it, at least in football.

2. San Francisco: Nick Bosa, edge rusher, Ohio State

Niners have loved him since the Cotton Bowl in 2017, when Bosa’s 1.5 sacks led the marauding Ohio State defense in a 24-7 pummeling of USC’s Sam Darnold in the last game of the star QB’s college career. I hear the Cardinals think of Bosa as a “generational player,” which just speaks to their love of Murray if they’re willing to pass on Bosa and leave him to the Niners. Edge-rusher is the element San Francisco hasn’t gotten right. To fortify the defensive front, the 49ers chose Arik Armstead 17th in 2015, DeForest Buckner seventh in 2016, and Solomon Thomas third in 2017 … and still their biggest team need is pressuring the quarterback. Four picks in the top 20 in the span of five drafts along the defensive line—if Bosa doesn’t put the defensive front over the top, this is some bad drafting.

3. New York Jets: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Imagine Josh McDaniels, Chad O’Shea and Brian Daboll—the offensive brains of the AFC East—designing protections to keep Leonard Williams and Oliver from wrecking games over the next three or four years. I realize that with new coordinator Gregg Williams staying with a 3-4 defense that this isn’t the perfect fit for Oliver, but Williams once bragged about being able to play 42 different defenses with his scheme, and he’d figure out how to make Oliver work. For a long time, I’d penciled in Josh Allen here because of the Jets’ edge-rusher need, but when you do a mock, you go by your gut. And someone I trust told me the Jets don’t love Allen. So those are the kinds of scale-tippers that change the board—and, most often, make me look like a dope Thursday night about 8:45 ET. We shall see. Oh, and the Jets would like to trade down too, if they can get a ransom. I don’t see it.

4. Oakland: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

My guess after talking to multiple teams is that Williams is at the top of more boards than any player. One of the smartest guys in our business, ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, has Williams atop his Top 100 list that dropped Saturday. Since the Raiders have a crying need at tackle—their top-rated DT was not in the top 50 of the 2018 Pro Football Focus DT rankings—Jon Gruden, who has ultimate say in Oakland, will greenlight this pick, and GM Mike Mayock gladly will take Williams here as the first pick of his NFL GM career.

5. Tampa Bay: Devin White, LB, LSU

Lots of people love White, a tackling machine who, at 237, tackles with the force of a 260-pounder. I’m taking my best guess of what GM Jason Licht would do if he was staring at White and Josh Allen here … because the Bucs need a pass-rusher too. Jason Pierre-Paul is 30, and other than possibly the precocious Carl Nassib, I don’t think there’s an eight-sack guy on the roster. But White can step in for the departed Kwon Alexander and be the sideline-to-sideline presence coordinator Todd Bowles would love. Plus, White might be the best defensive leader in this draft.

6. New York Giants: Josh Allen, edge rusher, Kentucky

A veteran personnel man who knows Dave Gettleman said the other day, “Dave wants a pass-rusher in the worst way. He won’t reach for one, but he’ll get one with one his first three picks.” Giants pick 6-17-37, and if they have their heart set on one of the young quarterbacks—Gettleman, as usual, has been a good poker-player here, because even those who know him do not know which quarterback he likes—they should be able to get him at 17. Or, perhaps, if they play their cards right, to trade back up into the low first round with that fifth pick in the second round as bait. (The Rams would love to dump out of the 31st pick.) One other thing Gettleman would figure to love in Allen: No top-prospect rusher is more experienced: He played in 51 college games.

7. Jacksonville: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Daniel Jeremiah said the other day he thinks Hockenson could be the reincarnation of Jason Witten. He’s the best blocking/receiving tight end to come out in several years, and he’ll need to be good so the Jags don’t regret passing on a desperately needed long-term tackle like Jawaan Taylor. My feeling is the Tom Coughlin/Dave Caldwell decision comes down to Hockenson or Taylor, and they go with the best tight end to come out in years—to support their new quarterback, Nick Foles, who had a great tight end in Zach Ertz in Philadelphia.

8. Detroit: Jawaan Taylor, T, Florida

I will be surprised if the Lions pick Taylor here. The Lions want to trade out, and this is the area for the first offensive lineman—Taylor or Jonah Williams or, in what may be a stretch, Andre Dillard—to be picked. Could be Jacksonville, could be Buffalo, or it could be whoever picks at eight. (Man, I’m really selling Taylor to the Lions!) I just can’t figure out which team will jump up here. For a while I thought it was Atlanta, but the Falcons seem inclined to use all their picks, not trade a fairly high one to move from 14 to eight.

9. Buffalo: Jonah Williams, T-G, Alabama 

Bills love Quinnen Williams, but I can’t see the Raiders parting with him if he’s there at four. Bills could also trade up for Josh Allen, or pick T.J. Hockenson if he falls to them. But if they stay, Jonah Williams could be an upgrade to Spencer Long at right guard or possibly, eventually, Ty Nsekhe, at right tackle. Lots of differing opinions in the scouting community on Williams. I would ask Bills Nation to look up “quixotic” in the dictionary. This is a good player, a better-than-Cordy Glenn player, but Williams is not Walter Jones. Having said that, it’s a smart choice by Bills GM Brandon Beane, who is trying to build a playoff team one solid player at a time.

10. Denver: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

There’s not a perfect player on the board for Vic Fangio’s defense, but so many teams need a rangy sideline-to-sideline linebacker (Pittsburgh would love for him to drop to 20, but I don’t see it), and many think Bush would be a great compliment to edge-rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Four or five teams between 10 and 20 would have serious interest in Bush if he falls past 10.

11. Cincinnati: Brian Burns, edge rusher, Florida State 

In the last week, Burns has gotten very hot … because he runs in the low 4.5s and there aren’t enough edge-rushers for this voracious market. He has some weaknesses, like his size (he’ll probably play around 248), but I think he’ll be gone by pick 20. I think his floor is Tennessee at 19.   

12. Green Bay: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Scouts who went into Iowa City over the past few months told me the staff there raved about T.J. Hockenson and were nice but not Hockenson-like about Fant. Might be unfair, because Hockenson is so pro-ready. Over his last two seasons at Iowa, Fant average 14.7 yards per catch and had 18 receiving touchdowns. Contrast that to teammate Hockenson’s 14.8-yard average over the last two years, with nine touchdowns. Very interesting. And Fant runs better, in the 4.5-second 40- range. This is probably 10 picks too high for Fant, and it wouldn’t surprise me if GM Brian Gutekunst picks long-term offensive tackle Andre Dillard here instead. But in any case, I can’t see Fant making it out of the first round.

13. Miami: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Falcons, on deck here, cry. Wilkins slipping to 13 would be a gift for rookie Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who learned under Bill Belichick that quick 315-pound people-movers in the defensive interior are to be collected and valued. Dolphins have so many needs, and if an offensive tackle they like falls here, that could be the pick too. Regarding QB? No team in the league—from what I’ve heard—has spent more time researching Josh Rosen in recent weeks than Miami. Suppose my mock is correct, and Washington and the Giants use the draft to take young quarterbacks, and Miami and the Chargers are the only teams with even some interest in Rosen, and GM Chris Grier tells Arizona GM Steve Keim on draft night: “We’ll give you our third-round pick—78 overall—for Rosen. That’s it.” Tough call for Keim, but knowing Rosen would be an unhappy camper behind Kyler Murray, and figuring this is a good depth draft in the first three rounds … well, that’s a lot to think about right there.

14. Atlanta: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Four players from Clemson and ‘Bama in the first 14 picks … with more on the way. Atlanta needs size and power, and at 6-4 and 342, with a 5.05 40-yard time, Lawrence is exceedingly rare. He seems to have convinced NFL teams that he did not knowingly take a banned substance that caused a positive PED test, disqualifying him from Clemson’s two playoff games. This is another spot to watch the best-available offensive lineman fall too.  

15. Washington: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State 

Dan Snyder gets to pick the quarterback of the future from his backyard in Maryland. Haskins’ family moved to Maryland from New Jersey at the start of his high school years, and Snyder’s son and Haskins both went to high school at the Bullis School in Potomac, Md. Picking Haskins could give Snyder the local-guy-makes-good story the franchise obviously would love. I found this piece of footage from for NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky quite helpful and revealing about Haskins.

16. Carolina: Montez Sweat, edge rusher, Mississippi State 

“Don’t put him in the first round,” one smart guy told me Sunday afternoon. “So many teams are afraid of him.” Some teams are worried about a heart condition discovered in Sweat after the season, and NFL Network reported Sweat has been taken off some teams’ draft boards. One GM told me Saturday: “We think it’s an issue, but we’ve been told if we keep a close eye on it, he can play. This is the kind of thing that different teams will have different opinions on.” Another GM told me he thought Sweat’s upside, if healthy, is better than Nick Bosa’s. With the retirement of Julius Peppers, Sweat would be a perfect addition to an edge-rush-needy team—if GM Marty Hurney can get past the worry over Sweat’s ticker.

17. Houston: Andre Dillard, T, Washington State

PROJECTED TRADE: Houston sends 23rd and 55th picks to Giants for this choice.

No team in the NFL needs a radical upgrade at tackle as much as the Texans. Per Pro Football Focus,the starting Houston tackles last year, Julie’n Davenport and Kendall Lamm, allowed 101 quarterback disruptions (sacks, hits, hurries) on Deshaun Watson, which is downright abominable considering Watson’s one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league. Think how many pressures he avoided just by being Deshaun Watson. Dillard’s the top tackle on Houston’s board, from what I hear, and teams think he’s got a chance to be a good left tackle.

18. Minnesota: Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State

Speaking of PFFthe lowest-rated NFL center in the league by far last year was Minnesota’s Pat Elflein. The Vikings pick at 18, 50 and 81, and the perception on the scouting trail is that two of those three picks will be offensive linemen. They’d better be. Bradbury’s a pugnacious guy, a Jason Kelcetype, with more quickness than most centers in the league now. He could start day one. No, let me amend that. With Elflein still in-house, Bradbury had better start day one.

19. Tennessee: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Here’s what funny about mock drafts. Sometimes, I hear from a smart GM who says something like: Drew Lock is way too low! Okay, I text back. Who should I give him to? Tennessee. No way, I text. You can’t draft Mariota’s successor yet. So I thought and thought and made one extra call, and some said, of all the players I had left on the board, “Rashan Gary is Mike Vrabel’s kind of player. Give them Gary.” See the science I use here?

20. Pittsburgh: Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

Imagine the first cornerback off the board being a guy who played one year at Temple after transferring from the Presbyterian (S.C.) College Blue Hose, and who will have one of the great names in the history of whatever team drafts him. Word on the scouting street is that Mike Tomlin loves Ya-Sin, and with White and Bush off the board at a position of great Steeler need (linebacker), Pittsburgh opts for a physical 6-2 corner who made tremendous plays in his one season of (fairly) big-time football.

21. Oakland: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

PROJECTED TRADE: Oakland sends 24th and 106th picks to Seattle for this choice.

So, the best running back in this draft will probably be picked somewhere in the twenties, and three teams—Philly at 25, Indy at 26 and Oakland at 24 and 27—are quite interested. The Raiders would have to move only three spots ahead to make it happen, and probably wouldn’t have to denude its mid-round picks to do so. I could see Seattle at 21 or Baltimore at 22 do this kind of deal, because Schneider and rookie Ravens GM Eric DeCosta love dealing. I met with Jacobs last week, by the way. Delightful fellow. Hungry to be a great NFL player, and he’s a versatile back too. Jon Gruden could turn him into a 1,700-total-yard back as a rookie.

22. Baltimore: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson 

New England hopes Ferrell falls 10 more spots, but he won’t. The Ravens also could trade—rookie GM Eric DeCosta would love to accumulate more picks. But Ferrell is an ideal building block on a defensive front that needs a new star. I won’t be shocked if Ferrell is gone if the Ravens take a 10-year center like Erik McCoy of Texas A&M; 38 career starts at a very high level, and the Ravens value the offensive line as much as any franchise in football.

23. New York Giants: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

PROJECTED TRADE: New York gets this pick and No. 55 from Houston for No. 17 overall.

The Giants could just sit at 17 and pick Jones, or Drew Lock, too. In my scenario, the Giants get their QB for 2020 and beyond after trading down with Houston … and they pick up a late second-round pick to go after a long-term safety to pair with Jabrill Peppers, or maybe take a shot on the right tackle Gettleman knows he needs. As for Jones the player, there’s a wide disparity in opinion in the man who went 17-19 as a college starter. Very smart, but he doesn’t have the deep arm of the three other first-round candidates. In Bob McGinn’s annual deep dive into the top draft prospects, the veteran scribe quotes a NFL scout saying of Jones: “He reminds me of Ryan Tannehill. There’s just something missing with him.” Damning, but the four first-rounders seem to all have zits this year.

24. Seattle: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

PROJECTED TRADE: Seattle gets this pick and No. 106 from Oakland for No. 21 overall.

This is GM John Schneider’s 10th draft with Seattle, and he has traded his first-round pick seven straight years. No question he wants to again this year, and so I have him moving from 21 to 24 and getting an early day-three pick in return. At 24, he needs to pick a player who can be a tone-setter right away. Abram’s that kind of player. More about Frank Clark later, but the pressure will be on Schneider if he moves Clark to find another edge-rusher with the production of Clark. Look for the Seahawks to pick a rusher either low in the round here or with their third and fourth-round loot.

25. Philadelphia: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Some love him. Some think he’s too wispy at 166, and they’re worried that he enters the NFL nursing a foot injury, and he might be prone to injury in the big-boy league. But he is one big threat. Instinctive and fearless too. Could be that DeSean Jackson gives the Eagles one last season, and then Brown steps in as the deep threat Carson Wentz can grow with into middle-age. Two cautions: GM Howie Roseman struck out on the free-agent he wanted, running back Tevin Coleman, and he could steal his RB1, Josh Jacobs, from the Raiders and Colts in trade. And Roseman is not fearful of drafting a guy (Sidney Jones, round two, 2017) who has to sit most or all of his rookie year with an injury. So I’d watch Jeffery Simmons here too.

26. Indianapolis: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU 

He’s 6-2 and runs a 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash. What’s not to like? Tackling, perhaps. But the Colts need two things badly: an edge-rusher and a shutdown cornerback. Williams is better at corner than the remaining edge guys are at sacking the quarterback. However, keep one thing in mind with Colts GM Chris Ballard: He’s not going to change his board to fit his needs. If there’s a significantly higher-rated player here, Ballard will take him.

27. Oakland: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

Touchdowns allowed in coverage over his last two college seasons: zero. He might drive defensive coordinator Paul Guenther crazy with his practice habits, but his game production, at least in college, made up for that. If the Raiders can come out of this first round with the best defensive tackle in the draft, the best running back in the draft, and a corner who should push for playing time immediately, it’s going to be a successful first draft for the rookie GM Mayock.

28. Los Angeles Chargers: Cody Ford, T, Oklahoma

Could be a strange change for Ford. He protected for the fleet Kyler Murray at Oklahoma last year, and, if this happens, he’d be protecting for the statue-esque Philip Rivers in L.A. The Chargers have to start planning for the future up front; Russell Okung enters his 10th season and turns 31 this year. Ford’s a good building block for GM Tom Telesco.

29. Seattle: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

PROJECTED TRADE: Seattle sends DE Frank Clark to Kansas City for this pick and the 63rd choice.

The run on corners continues. Murphy’s an interesting prospect. Very savvy, but he played just 20 college games, and his speed is in the barely acceptable range (4.55) for corners. The Seahawks continue the quest in this draft for Legion of Boom II. (More on Clark after the 32nd pick.)

30. Green Bay: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi

This would be very anti-Packer. Last wideout taken in the first round: 17 years ago, Javon Walker. They haven’t taken a receiver in the top 50 in 11 years (Jordy Nelson, 2008, 36th overall). I could see Andre Dillard here too, but Brian Gutekunst is trying to stock up for one last multi-year run with Aaron Rodgers, giving him the kind of weapons that will allow him to be Aaron Rodgers again. I might go Marquise Brown here if I were Green Bay, but I realize a 166-pound burner may not have the shelf life of a Sterling Sharpe-big-bodied player like Metcalf.

31. Denver: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

PROJECTED TRADE: Denver sends the 41st pick and a 2020 second-rounder to the Los Angeles Rams for this choice.

Feel bad about predicting this. Sometimes in mock drafts, you want to get a player in the first round because you think he’s going to be a first-round pick, and you wedge him in and make the logic fit after that. I do not think the Rams want to pick at 31, and feel they can use a trade-down to get a two or three back after dealing fourth and second-round picks to Kansas City in 2018 for cornerback Marcus Peters. Denver likes Lock, and might be able to snag him as a two-year learner behind Joe Flacco while retaining the ability to use the 71st pick this year on a potential starter at a need position, like Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger. A move like this wouldn’t surprise me, but I also think the way Denver GM John Elway’s talking, he could punt on a young quarterback until the richer QB draft of 2020.

32. New England: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

I don’t think this is the likely Patriots pick, but I don’t know who is, and I wanted to get this great player in the first round. The second-best best DT in the draft (behind Quinnen Williams) till tearing his ACL earlier this year won’t be available to play until 2020, and he’s also got some personal rehab to do after a past physical altercation with a woman. Simmons could have the kind of impact Jaylon Smithhad for the Cowboys after a serious knee injury in his last college game—and the team that picks him will have to wait only one year for Simmons, not the two seasons Dallas afforded Smith to get physically right. Smith was the 34th pick overall in 2016. We’ll see if a team near the bottom of round one or top of round two takes a shot on Simmons.


In the end, I struggled mightily with the Frank Clark trade from Seattle to Kansas City. I had the trade in my first draft of the mock on Friday, then took it out for 48 hours, and just put it back in Sunday night. The waffling came before I sent Clark to the Chiefs because of the Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hillincidents. And I will not be surprised at all if the Chiefs don’t do it. But I’m taking the gamble, because the Kansas City need for edge-rush is so pronounced. Hunt was cut by the Chiefs last year after video surfaced of him kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel last offseason. The league and local authorities are now investigating whether Hill may have been involved in a child abuse case with his three-year-old son. Clark was cited in police reports in 2014 for a domestic abuse case against his then-girlfriend. It could be the Chiefs (or Colts or Jets) have done a lot of due diligence and believe such accusations are in Clark’s past. But it was tough for me to predict that and it came down to a gut feeling Sunday night.

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How Broncos’ Von Miller is taking his game to the next level

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Broncos: Englewood, Colo.
Saturday, July 20
Von Miller is the key to the Denver season

Late in the first padded practice of the year for the Broncos, Von Miller lined up on the defensive left edge, outside rookie tight end Noah Fant. Miller, suddenly 30, has always had a get-off stance similar to Lawrence Taylor’s, one foot back, leaning forward, threatening the inside but usually going outside, so you have to respect both. At the snap, he beat Fant outside and charged at rookie quarterback Drew Lock; it would have been sack in real life, but you don’t sack the quarterback in training camp. Next snap: Miller dropped three steps back into coverage, then pivoted quick and cut to his left, velcroing himself to an undrafted wideout, Romell Guerrier, in the slot. Lock, nothing there to his right, threw incomplete to the left side of the field.

The second play is more important to the 2019 Broncos, strangely enough.

The new coaching staff, led by pass-rush maestro Vic Fangio, has set out to make a very good player great at all things. Last year, Von Miller was not. He was sloppy. He got called for three encroachment penalties in the first half against the Niners late in the season and got yanked by coach Vance Joseph. PFF rated him the 16th-best edge-rusher in the game (low for him), 57th in coverage and 127th against the run. Numbers don’t lie. Miller was not a complete player last year. That was a significant factor in the Broncos sinking from third in team defense in 2017 to 22nd last year—and the dismissal of Joseph. Poll 32 offensive line coaches, and Miller might still be the most respected edge-rusher in the game. But in an era when edge-rush is all-important, it’s interesting to note that Miller, in eight seasons, has never won Defensive Player of the Year.

So why am I talking about blanket-covering Romell Guerrier in the slot? Because Fangio and his respected outside linebackers coach, Brandon Staley, are building Miller from the ground up, fundamental by fundamental. They know he can rush the passer, and know he can be better even at that. But they know he has to be better at the other aspects of the game, because he’s the defensive leader of the team, and other players follow him. If Miller’s working his footwork and his drops and coverage early in training camp, and that shows up at nighttime when practice tape gets dissected in front of the team, well, then Bradley Chubb and Derek Wolfe and all the new guys are going to see that and they’re going to work to be perfect too.

After practice, I said to Miller I thought that coverage play was a good example of the re-made Miller—and the respect he must have for Fangio early on.

“A hundred percent,” said Miller. “Just do the job you’re asked to do, coached to do, every play.”

More Miller: “I got a great coach here, one of the best coaches I’ve ever had in my life. We have great leadership here but he’s an outside linebacker guy. He’s coached a lot of great ones. I wanna be his greatest product yet. It’s the little things, like coach Fangio says. When you really focus on the little things it turns into a change of game. It turns into a whole different athlete. I bought into that. I bought into my outside linebackers coach as well, Coach Staley. He stays up super late thinking about how to make me better … I can really appreciate that. I bought into whatever those coaching points that they give me.”

Like this one on encroachment/offside. Miller has liked to take chances at the snap to get a millisecond of an edge. A myth, Fangio told his team one day. We had 60 sacks with the Panthers in 1996 and we jumped offside four times all season.

“Every player is going to have an assignment and a technique on every play,” said Staley, a rising coach under Fangio who came from Chicago with him. “If you can master those two things, then your beautiful instincts can take over. What Vic has taught Von—and with Vic, you’re talking about the Bill Walsh of outside linebackers, he’s had Kevin Greene, Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Khalil Mack—is, ‘These are parts of your game we think can get better. And it will lead to more for you.’ That’s not a knock on Von. It’s a compliment. There’s another gear he can get to. And to Von’s credit, he has had a refreshing humility about being coached.”

Said Fangio: “Von’s been excellent, receptive from the beginning.”

The Broncos, coming off the 11-21 Joseph era, have been harped on by Fangio about the little things. Denver was seventh last year in turnover margin in the NFL; excellent, really, considering the top six made the playoffs. But the offense stumbled all season, and the lack of discipline on both sides (30th in penalties) crippled consistency. You’d think a defense with the bookend rush of Miller and Bradley Chubb and a secondary led by the great Chris Harris Jr., could make up for that, but they were 22nd in explosive plays allowed. Fangio watched tape of the season and couldn’t believe all the defensive breakdowns.

Fangio, getting acclimated to Denver over the past few months, has been to a few Nuggets and Rockies games. He loves talking to other coaches. Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce and his staff attended Saturday’s practice.

“The details of each sport need to be tended to,” Fangio said, asked about lessons from his baseball manager friends Bud Black and Joe Maddon, and those in other sports. “And there’s team organization, team morale, maintaining the structure of a team where the individual is promoted so much. I like watching all games. Seeing the other games just solidifies to me that fundamentals is what wins. In a basketball game, a guy doesn’t box out correctly, and the other team scores on a putback. Baseball, they miss a cutoff, a run scores, you lose by one and it’s a huge play. Fundamentals is ultimately what causes you to win and lose.

“I think the other thing, and this has really been the case with Von, is players want the truth. Joe Maddon told me: ‘If I tell the truth to a player and he doesn’t like it, he’s gonna be mad for a couple days. If I lie to the player and he figures that out, he’s going to be mad at me forever.’ And rightfully so. We’re in this business to make people better, not gloss over things.”

At practice Saturday, the Denver radio host/FOX broadcaster/former NFL guard Mark Schlereth looked out at Miller during practice on a broiler of a Colorado morning. “I’ll make this prediction: Von’s sack numbers will go down, but he’ll be a better player at everything, and he’ll open it up for other guys on the defense. Derek Wolfe could have a career year with Von and Chubb being better at the total game. Von is like the Matrix; the things he can do athletically are not of this world. But now what I think Vic has done is impress on him that there’s no more freelancing. If one guy on the defense freelances, he f—- us all. Plus, we have to get out of this business of equating sacks with total success of a pass-rusher. It’s nonsense. Von can get 12 sacks and be the best pass-rusher in the league—playing the right way, he opens it up for 10 guys to make plays, and for this to be a complete defense.”

It’s a balancing act for Miller, who told me he wants to break Bruce Smith’s all-time sack record. Interesting numbers:

  • Bruce Smith, after his eighth NFL season, had 92 sacks entering his age-30 season. He finished his career with 200 sacks.
  • Miller, after his eighth NFL season, has 98 sacks entering his age-30 season.

So Smith got 108 sacks after his 30th birthday. “That’s encouraging, definitely encouraging,” Miller told me—but he also said he, like Fangio, is not going to make proclamations. Miller has become friends with Smith, who came to Miller’s Pass Rush Summit this year and spilled everything he had for Miller.

Ask those who have played with Miller and those who coach him now, and they’ll tell you he likes to be coached, and coached hard. If Miller takes it all in, Denver will be far better on defense, and the pressure on Joe Flacco to lead an explosive offense will be lessened. Miller knows what’s on his shoulders. It’s only the pressure of the 2019 Broncos season. He’s okay with that. Just a gut feeling here: Miller’s smart; he majored in Poultry Sciences at Texas A&M and has a big chicken/turkey production facility in Texas. He had a good presence at the Kentucky Derby doing TV for NBC with Dylan Dreyer on the network’s pre-race show. He gets it, though, that he needs to keep the big thing the big thing.

“I do a lot of stuff good,” Miller told me, “but the thing I do best is play football.” Fangio’s counting on that.

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These statistics prove DeAndre Hopkins is the NFL’s best receiver

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It was notable last week that the Madden NFL 20 game gave four players a near-perfect rating of 99: Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, Bobby Wagner and DeAndre Hopkins. Donald is a no-brainer, Mack nearly one, Wagner as consistent a player as there is in football, and Hopkins—well, I dug into him a bit, and I love the honor bestowed by the Madden people. Hopkins is real, and he’s spectacular.

Let’s compare Hopkins to the all-world Julio Jones. The raw numbers paint a slight edge for Jones in 2018:

Jones: 113 catches, 1,677 yards, eight touchdowns, 104.8 receiving yards per game.
Hopkins: 115 catches, 1,572 yards, 11 touchdowns, 98.3 receiving yards per game.

The deeper numbers, per PFF:

• Jones dropped eight passes. Hopkins dropped none, which, since PFF began keeping official drop stats in 2006, was the most sure-handed season by far a receiver has had. No receiver in the last 13 years has 110 or more catches and zero drops in a season.

• Hopkins saw a “catchable but inaccurate” pass thrown his way 46 times in 169 total targets (27.2 percent of his targets), and he caught 35—meaning he caught 76 percent of all catchable but difficult passes. Jones had far fewer “catchable but inaccurate” balls thrown to him, just 23, and caught 14 of them. That’s 61 percent of balls caught by Jones on challenging throws.

What does it mean? Hopkins had a tougher job catching balls from Deshaun Watson than Jones had in dealing with Matt Ryan, and Hopkins did a more efficient job on the tough catches than Jones.

So Hopkins had far fewer drops than Jones, and he made far more tough catches.

Case closed: The best wide receiver in football in 2018 was Hopkins, and the Madden game recognized it.

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